House Resources Committee Passes Sealaska Bill
Washington, D.C. - The House Committee on Natural Resources marked-up the Southeast Alaska Native Land Entitlement Finalization and Jobs Protection Act today, introduced by Chairman of the Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs Don Young (R-AK) and Ranking Member Dan Boren (D-OK), in April. This bipartisan legislation will allow the Sealaska Native Corporation to receive its remaining land conveyance under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) of 1971. Rep. Young first took the lead on this legislation in the 110th Congress. This bill passed out of committee with strong, bipartisan support; the final vote was 34 - 10.
This legislation allows Sealaska to move away from sensitive watersheds, select a more balanced inventory of second growth and old growth, and select most of its remaining ANCSA lands on the existing road system, preserving as much as 40,000 acres of inventoried "roadless" old growth.
Congressman Young's statement as prepared and delivered:
"H.R. 1408, the Southeast Alaska Native Land Entitlement Finalization and Jobs Protection Act will authorize Sealaska, the regional Alaska Native Corporation for Southeast Alaska, to finalize its 40-year old land settlement due under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) of 1971 by selecting Native lands from within a designated pool of land in Southeast Alaska.
"Under ANCSA, regional Native Corporations were permitted to select lands from throughout their historic homeland. However, Sealaska was limited to select from a land pool of congressionally designated "withdrawal boxes" around just ten of the Native villages in the Tongass National Forest. Today, Sealaska may choose these lands and develop them. However, many of these lands are located in inventoried roadless areas, sensitive community watersheds, or other areas that may be more appropriately in public ownership.
"This bill would simply authorize the Sealaska Corporation to choose lands from outside of the ANCSA designated withdrawal boxes, which provides parity with other Native Corporations. This legislation does not authorize an increase of one single acre than the Sealaska Corporation is already entitled to under existing law.
"Over the four years since this legislation was first introduced, this legislation has had multiple hearings before this Committee. In addition, numerous public meetings have been held throughout Southeast Alaska by both Sealaska and me and my staff. In fact, I visited Prince of Wales Island just last week and heard from many constituents regarding the challenges they face everyday, most notably high energy prices, lack of employment opportunities, and the lack of a reliable timber supply from the National Forest.
"All of these efforts have resulted in numerous meaningful changes such as providing for continued public access to lands, and modifying certain land selections, among others. Nevertheless, today, I have a series of amendments I wish to offer en bloc to make further changes to the bill in hopes of satisfying additional concerns that have been voiced.
"One final point. In May of this year Governor of Alaska through his DC office submitted comments for the record on this bill. In the letter, the Governor noted that the timber industry in Southeast Alaska is at its lowest level of production since Alaska became a state in 1959.
"Think about it: the lowest level of timber in 52 years. Environmental groups blame the economy, but this cannot fully account for the decrease. You can't manage for timber when the Forest has been locked up in wilderness designations.
"For those of you worried about jobs and the economy, I would submit this is a jobs bill ... a jobs bill for rural America. And the Natives of Southeast Alaska want to provide them."
For more information on Congressman Young's Sealaska bill, click here.
For a look at how this legislation is a jobs bill, click here.
For a summary of Congressman Young's efforts to address local community concerns with the Sealaska bill, click here.